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Ed Macfarlane of Friendly Fires

Making the Crowd Hype

The three core members of the UKís Friendly Fires have collaborated musically for nearly 10 years, but it was only after the band adopted a dance-friendly rock beat over the past few years -- all the rage in these parts and abroad -- that it started gaining attention on this side of the Atlantic. After recently wrapping up its first headlining tour in the UK, the band is testing the U.S. market with an opening slot on Lykke Liís tour, which stops in San Francisco for a sold-out show at the Independent on November 1st. Friendly Fires vocalist Ed Macfarlane spoke with SF Station during a phone interview from a New York gig.

SF Station (SFS): Now that you have an early set time, does that mean you get more rest or more time to party?

Ed Macfarlane (EM): We go on stage tonight at 10, which is good, because usually weíll be going on earlier. I wouldnít say we party more. We will actually have to try harder because people arenít as drunk and weíve got to get them going. Weíre supposed to be hyping people up.

SFS: What are you looking forward to most with your tour?

EM: We havenít actually toured America in a van -- driving through and seeing the beautiful landscapes -- so Iím looking forward to that.

SFS: You have the night off on Halloween. Do you have any plans?

EM: Yeah, our tour manager says she knows a really good Halloween shop, so we are considering stocking up on something pretty interesting on the way. In England, people donít really celebrate Halloween and they donít party as much. It will be good to see how Americans celebrate Halloween.

SFS: Where are you going to go?

EM: I think weíve probably been invited to numerous things, but I donít know off the top of my head. Iím sure it involves going to lots of fun places and drinking lots of alcohol.

SFS: Youíre spending four days down in L.A. at the end of the tour and you have already spent a lot of time there. Do you like that city?

EM: Some of the band members donít like it at all, but I really like L.A. Itís a surreal place with lots of freaks -- people with their head in the clouds that want to be celebrities. I find it quite entertaining, but there is something kind of depressing about it.

We went to lots of diners when we were in L.A. where itís hard to eat healthily. Thereís this place called Normís -- I think itís a chain -- and the food there is boarder-line offensive. Itís fatty and the most unhealthy food I think Iíve seen in my life. I was impressed that everyone in L.A. is not incredibly fat.

SFS: It wasnít as good as English food?

EM: Itís different in England. You can get pub food, but itís not as greasy as American diner food. We get plenty of bad food, as well. There are lots of Kabob shops.

SFS: How has your style changed from when you performed with Jack Savidge (drums) and Edd Gibson (guitar) when you were 14 to what Friendly Fires is doing now?

EM: When we were younger we played music that sounded very different from the stuff we are playing today. We played post-hardcore because that was what we were into when we started the band when we were 14-years old, but we constantly took in different influences as we were growing up. We went through a post-hardcore stage, a post-rock stage and we introduced some electronica. We decided to make pop music that is kind of inspired by house and disco.

SFS: You also cite Prince as an influence.

EM: Yeah, some of our tracks have kind of a sultry, stripped-down bass and drums. We try to make our music sound a little bit sexy as well.

SFS: Do you feel like you have to work hard to win over American crowds?

EM: Surprisingly, I donít. Our first show on this tour was in New York and I expected a kind of London attitude where everyone stands around and tries to be cool. The people last night were freaking out and dancing and getting into their own world. We want people to react like that to our music.

SFS: Does it drive you crazy when people donít move?

EM: Yeah, I think Swedish crowds are the worst for that. We did a show in Stockholm and they donít react while you perform, even if they like it.

SFS: Where are the best dancers that you have seen from the stage?

EM: We played at Santos Party House the first time we played in New York. This guy was freaking out dancing in front of the stage; he passed out for about 20 seconds and we had to stop the show. After that, he made his way back up and started freaking out and dancing again. He was one of my favorites.

Friendly Fires open for Lykke Li at the Independent on November 1st. The show is sold out. Doors open at 8:30pm and the show starts at 9pm.